The first Valentine’s Day that my husband and I were dating, he showed up at my doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and a clue which started me on a scavenger hunt around our college town, leading me to various places where we had shared romantic moments.
The first Valentine’s Day after we became parents, seven years later, he showed up at our doorstep with a toilet plunger — after receiving a frantic text from me while he was at work: “When will you be home? Can you stop at Home Depot for a plunger? Noah threw something down the toilet, and I need to use it!!!”
Ahh, parenthood. It certainly changes your life. I must say, I think I was even happier to receive that blessed plunger than I was to receive that bouquet of flowers years earlier.
I’m happy to report that even with clogged toilets and other such realities of life with little ones, my husband and I have managed to keep the romance alive over the years. But our expectations for Valentine’s Day, and even our desires for that day and other holidays, have changed as our family has grown and changed.
Now we like to use holidays as an opportunity to build the family culture and connection in our home, and we find that the “holiday of love” is a perfect time to do that. Here are three of our best ideas:
1) Secret Cupid
This is a tradition that my mother started in our family when we were young. Basically at the beginning of the week, my mom put the names of everyone in the family on slips of paper in a bowl, and we’d each draw one out. It was then our mission to surprise that family member each day in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.
Since we were too young to go to the store by ourselves, she set-up a “Cupid Store” in her bedroom. She spread Dove Promises, York Peppermint Patties, festive Pez dispensers, and small stuffed animals across her bedspread. We went into her bedroom alone and got a certain number of tickets to “spend,” and I remember agonizing over what to buy for my special person. (You could modify your Cupid Store for older children, depending on their interests and the unique hobbies of your family.)
My mom also encouraged us to sneakily serve one another throughout the week, making beds, picking up toys, and hanging up wet towels that had been left on the floor. Finding creative ways to serve each other was often the most fun part!
This tradition remains a highlight memory of my childhood and something I now do with my own little children. For more details, you can read my sister Sarah’s detailed blog post about it here.
2) Love Letters to Your Children
You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write down some sentimental thoughts about your loved ones every once in a while—and what better time than Valentine’s Day?
Take a few minutes during that special week in February to write your kids “love letters” about all the things that you adore about them. Try to be specific—explaining the qualities that are unique to them and that you admire about them. Share a memory from the past few months that you loved sharing with them.
Make a copy of the letter to give to them and save a copy for yourself. You could keep these letters in your journal or in a binder that you add to each year on Valentine’s Day.
Even if your children are babies who are too young to read your words now, or they are teenagers who will pretend to be embarrassed by your sappiness, this tradition will create a meaningful, precious keepsake in years to come.
You can read a love letter that I wrote to my infant son here.
3) Valentine’s Dinner at Home
If you can’t find a babysitter to get away with your sweetheart, plan a fun Valentine’s dinner at home for the entire family! A friend of mine has done chocolate and fruit fondue with her little kids, and they loved it. I have another friend who has made heart-shaped pizzas (and I hear that many pizza places deliver heart-shaped pizzas that day if you aren’t the type to make a homemade one).
You could set the table fancy with candles, glitter, and goblets — or even better, you could delegate this responsibility to your children if they are excited about tasks like this.
You could also do service, such as “heart-attacking” a lonely neighbor by cutting out paper hearts and writing loving messages all over them, then sneakily taping them to their door.
So whether you are celebrating this Valentine’s Day with flowers on the porch and kisses on a college campus tennis court (yes I do remember this happening on that scavenger hunt years ago) — or you are celebrating it with a toddler hanging on your legs while you and your hubby unclog the toilet — remember, Valentine’s Day is about love for the people who matter most to you.
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite Valentines traditions that involve the whole family?
CHALLENGE: Do something this week to bring a little more happiness to the people you adore.
Image provided by the author.
Graphics added by Anna Jenkins.